When planning a round the world trip one of the first things you need to consider is how long you’re going to be away for. While there may be a job or a university place that provides you with a fixed end date to your travels, more likely than not it’s how long you money will last that will be the single most important factor in determining the length of your trip.
Some countries have always been more expensive than others. Japan for example has long been considered somewhere where keeping a tight grip on a budget is difficult, while you can spend weeks in South East Asia and barely make a dent in your cash reserves (depending on how much beer you drink of course).
Then there is the exchange rate to consider. What is an expensive destination one year can suddenly become good value the next and vice versa. UK travellers have suffered at the hands of the rising Australian and New Zealand dollars in recent years and a budget that would have lasted six months a few years ago might run dry after four months today.
So where will your money will last longest?
South East Asia
Almost anywhere in this part of the world will seem cheap to those arriving from Europe or North America. You can eat well for a pound, wash it down with a 50p beer and crash at a decent hostel for under a fiver. Transport is very cheap if you use the local buses or tuk-tuks and still reasonable if you choose to ‘upgrade’ to the minibus shuttles.
As a general rule Laos and Cambodia are two of the cheapest countries to visit with Thailand and Vietnam a little more pricey but still very good value. Be aware that the major tourist-related costs are high everywhere. Entry to Angkor Wat will set you back $20 for a one-day pass and $40 for the more popular three-day ticket, while in Siem Reap mass tourism has meant that most food and accommodation costs are considerably higher than elsewhere in the region.
While India has one eye firmly on the growing luxury tourist market there is still a wide variety of budget accommodation and once you leave the main tourist hotspots you’ll find plenty of cheap options. India is a great place to eat well for very little as the delicious and very cheap street food is mostly fried freshly in front of you.
As in many parts of the world entrance charges for the main attractions are higher for foreigners than locals. On the plus side there are countless temples that can be enjoyed for free and for most visitors their highlights of India are their random encounters with people well away from the busy tourist sights.
While there are fewer tourist facilities here than in the backpacker hotspots of Asia you can still live well on a small budget. Accommodation is cheap and food very affordable, particularly away from the popular tourist centres such as Mombasa or Arusha.
The big dent in your travel budget here is likely to be the high cost of safaris and other activities, all of which are priced at western prices. Decide ahead of time how many safari days you want to budget for and stick to this. Camping can save a lot of money and many hostels have camping facilities within their grounds.
South American countries can dip in and out of budget-friendly status according to their economic woes. It is not as cheap as SE Asia but you can still live on a small budget. Argentina became cheap for travellers overnight when it stopped fixing the peso to the US dollar in 2002 and the currency fell in value by 70%. It still offers good value hotels and hostels and you can eat well for under $10.
Bolivia however is probably South America’s bargain destination and is a popular stop for backpackers, with plenty of very cheap hostels and a well-trodden tourist trail. Even though jungle trips or boats on Lake Titicaca will bump up the cost Bolivia still offers excellent value for money.